Thursday, April 13, 2006

Disney honors actress Rossellini

 

Big Cat Rescue has supported the Conservation Network since they began, specifically the small cat project to save the Andean Mountain Cat.  Jamie and Carole met with Isabella Rossellini, Charles Knowles and Jim Anderson two years ago at their conference:

 

Disney honors actress Rossellini

This environmental 'champion' was granted $100,000 to help support a Florida sanctuary and an endangered South American cat.

 

 

Isabella Rossellini (DIANA ZALUCKY/WALT DISNEY CO.)

Apr 12, 2006

 

 

Isabella Rossellini is famous for her beauty, her acting and her lineage.

 

She's the daughter of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini. She is the star of Blue Velvet and many other films, and has lived much of her life as a cover girl and People magazine "Most Beautiful People" celebrity.

 

"You have those parents, and you're born pretty, well, you go into the family business," she says with a chuckle. A one-time Chanel spokesmodel, star of interesting movies, from Immortal Beloved and Wyatt Earp to Roger Dodger and The Saddest Music in the World -- she has done all right by the family name.

 

But in environmentalist circles, Rossellini is well-known for something else altogether -- generosity and activism. She has spoken out for animals and wilderness for more than 20 years.

 

"The amount of time she's put into the environment, the amount of money she's put into it, really show her as a person with a passion for it," says Wildlife Conversation Network director and co-founder Charlie Knowles. Rossellini is on the board of that organization, and she is not just a pretty face for that board, Knowles says. She takes this work seriously.

 

"I was bad at math, and at schoolwork in general," says Rossellini. "But I knew I could earn money from being beautiful, and then donate that money to saving animals."

 

Thanks to the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, she'll have more of that cash to spread around. Rossellini was honored at Walt Disney World last week as a "champion" of the environment, with a $100,000 grant.

 

Rossellini, 53, accepted her award and promised to pass it on to conservation efforts she backs -- The Howard Gilman Foundation, which runs the White Oak Plantation nature preserve in Yulee, north of Jacksonville; and the Wildlife Conservation Network, which is trying to save the Andean mountain cat.

 

"The first time the cat, which lives between Bolivia, Peru and Chile, was photographed was only in 1997," she says. "It is endangered because people hunt chinchilla, you know, for the fur coats."

 

Scientists think the cat primarily subsists on chinchillas.

 

"When I was a little girl, my mom had a chinchilla fur coat that I just dreamt I'd get to inherit someday. I never understood, nor did my mom, that having fur coats made from wild animals would mean the decimation of the animal in the wild."

 

Donating money to save the cat that needs the chinchilla to survive, Rossellini says, "is the least I can do to restore the damage!"

 

Rossellini is a world traveler whose fondness for wild animals began with domesticated ones, especially a dog named Macaroni.

 

"You have cats and dogs, and you start to wonder how the cats and dogs in the wild, tigers and wolves, were doing. You see your dog do something that seems instinctual, and you wonder where it comes from. Simple questions like that made me realize that we can't take animals for granted in the wild, anymore. We have to protect them."

 

She has had a long love affair with elephants, "my passion," and has long supported, financially, another Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund honoree -- elephant advocate Iain Douglas-Hamilton.

 

"I love all kinds of animals, from dogs and cats, to birds in Central Park, in New York, where I live," Rossellini says. "But elephants are quite intelligent, with a matriarchal society, and it's quite moving to learn of the sagas of a family of them. Their affection for their babies, the fact that the group raises the babies, together, really touched me."

 

The others honored by Disney included comic actor and conservationist John Cleese, Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, and legendary primate expert Jane Goodall, "a shocking list, and one I am quite stunned to be honored with," says Rossellini.

 

While here, Rossellini toured Disney's Animal Kingdom.

 

"It's not really Africa," she says. "But it makes you dream of Africa. And I love that Disney has taken on the cause of teaching conservation to young people. You really do need real elephants to be inspired to make a Dumbo. I am happy they understand that."

 

 

Roger Moore can be reached at rmoore@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5369.

 

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/orl-isabella06apr13,0,5575164.story?coll=orl-business-headlines

For the cats,

 

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 100 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

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